Renton tenant takes on landlord after repeat flooding in bedrooms

Washington state law requires landlords to keep rental units fit for habitation at all times. But a woman in Renton says she's in a battle with the managers of her apartment because after the heavy rain we've had. Her apartment has flooded twice, and she's afraid it will flood again.

For the second time in less than a month, Mary Donald's living and dining space is cluttered with her bedroom belongings. Twice over a 13 day period, during the heavy rains that drenched the Northwest in September, Mary says the two below-ground bedrooms in her unit at the Windsor Apartments in Renton got soaked.

During the latest event on September 28th, Mary says she came home to wet bedroom walls, water soaked wall-to-wall carpets, and mold growing on parts of the walls and carpet. She took pictures to document the problem.

After both incidents, the property management company, Trinity Property Consultants, paid to have the rooms dried out and the walls repainted. Five days after the latest storm, a blue draining hose still extended from the stairwell drain next to Mary's lower-level unit.

An orange, heavy-duty extension cord stretched across the soggy lawn from a power source in a nearby building. After two rounds of stacking her stuff in the living room and sleeping on the couch for nearly a week, Mary says it's not enough to simply dry things out and repaint.

She wants fair compensation, and she wants the problem fixed.

"They said the first time was an act of nature," Mary explained, adding that the on-sight manager rejected the suggestion of compensation after the first flooding incident in early September.

But Mary insists it's not nature, but a drainage deficiency she feels is not being addressed- and she maintains that violates her legal right to a livable dwelling.

"Yeah, I want them to fix the problem, obviously, I mean that's in their best interest. It's in every body's best interest. They still haven't done anything to fix the leak. So yeah, the carpet's put back together now, but I don't want to move all this stuff in there until they fix the problem, the underlying problem," Mary said.

I went to the Windsor property management office in an effort to talk with the on-sight representative. An employee identified as being in charge took my card and said she'd relay my message to the regional manager, who has not responded as of this posting. I was able to reach the Executive Vice President, David Seiler at Trinity's headquarters in California.

Seiler said contrary to what Mary Donald might perceive, a number of contractors have been contracted to see if there was anything outside the norm. Seiler made the point that the drains were not designed to accept that much water that fast, and insisted the staff at Windsor is bringing out plumbing and engineering experts to ensure there is no further work that needs to be done.

"We want to make sure there's nothing wrong with the building or the property," Seiler said.

Seiler would not discuss compensation, saying that was a private, contractual matter between the company and the tenant. But Mary says she was offered a 30 percent reduction in rent for a month and the opportunity to break her one year lease, which she signed in May. According to Mary, the offer contained certain conditions which she considers unfair and not in her best interest. She's working on negotiating a fair compensation and continues to monitor the detection an resolution of the leak problem in her unit.

The Washington Tenants Unions says issues like Mary's are not uncommon, but many renters don't know their rights and responsibilities.

Executive Director Jonathan Grant issued the following statement:

"The Tenants Union assists thousands of tenants in King County suffering from substandard housing. The best way to access our services is either on our hotline or walk-in clinics.
Here is the section on
our website that explains a tenant's right to a repair. The state law requires a landlord at all times to keep the unit fit for habitation, and when a major problem persists that prevents the tenant from using partially or fully their home they are entitled to some form of compensation, like a rent credit or temporary lodging. "

If conditions are making your rental home uninhabitable, notify your landlord in writing, and get a signed confirmation. Grant says by law, landlords have a certain number of days to make repairs, but that written letter is what starts the clock.